According to the 2011 K-12 Horizon Report cloud computing and mobiles are on what it calls the “near term horizon” which means these technologies are likely to see mainstream adoption in the next 12 months. Our district has been using Google Apps for almost a year now, and I’m not sure anyone even remembers what life was like “pre-Google Apps.” Our adoption of this cloud-based service has impacted more and more of how we carry out our business as educators.
The 2011 Horizon Report makes the following observation regarding cloud computing:
“Cloud computing has already transformed the way users of the Internet think about computing and communication, data storage and access, and collaborative work.”
How has our adoption of Google Apps, a cloud computing solution, transformed our district and my school?
- Our district has saved money and time. Our district has been able to save a few thousand dollars by using Gmail instead of running a district email server. There are no longer any hardware or software costs associated with operating an email server, and our IT department no longer has to troubleshoot and maintain this equipment. Backups and other maintenance issues are taken care of by Google.
- Educators in our district have increased access to the cloud-based tools offered by Google. For example, teachers have created Google Sites to collect and display resources for the classroom. Also, we use Google Calendar to schedule joint events. Having access to these tools has actually encouraged experimentation with them.
- Educators in our district have found new ways to communicate using this cloud-based solution. For example, we regularly employ Google Talk to communicate directly. We also use Google Voice to facilitate phone contacts with our parents. Communication has become more seamless after adopting Google Apps.
- Educators in our district have begun to take advantage of the collaborative nature of the web. For example, teachers in our school regularly share spreadsheets, documents and forms and use the collaborative features of Google docs to jointly tackle projects that once required face-to-face meetings. Our adoption of Google Apps has led to increased collaboration through the Web.
Cloud computing is no longer on the horizon for our district. Google Apps for us has already become mainstream. It is common to hear teachers say to one another, “I’ll share that with you in Google Docs and you can make the changes you think should be made there.” Just as the 2011 K-12 Horizon report states, our district has already begun to see computing as something that doesn’t just happen on that desktop sitting in the back of their room. Computing for us is now moving to the cloud, where collaboration is the norm rather than the exception.